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Home > Resources > PAF Publications > PAF Guides & Major Publications > A Healthier African Am Community > Stroke & Heart Attack

Stroke & Heart Attack
Heart and kidney diseases include coronary artery disease, heart attacks, stroke, high blood pressure (hypertension) and kidney disease. These diseases are common in the African American community and are major causes of early death.

Hypertension (High Blood Pressure)
Hypertension (High Blood Pressure) is a silent killer and occurs when the pressure of blood against the walls of the blood vessels increases. Poorly controlled high blood pressure is a leading cause of chronic kidney disease, heart attacks and strokes. High blood pressure can be treated effectively with medicines, diet and a healthy lifestyle.

Strokes result when a blood vessel that carries oxygen and nutrients to the brain is either blocked by a clot or bursts. Then part of the brain starts to die because it cannot get the blood and oxygen it needs. When a portion of the brain dies the area of the body it controls is affected. Strokes can cause a complete or partial loss of movement or sensation, affect speech or vision. Side effects of a stroke may be permanent or temporary and will be different with each patient. Recovery is dependent on the severity of the stroke, location of the blood clot, and how soon treatment is received.
Signs and Symptoms:
  • Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body
  • Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding
  • Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
  • Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
  • Sudden, severe headache with no known cause

Heart Attack
Heart Attacks occur when the blood supply to a section of the heart muscle is severely reduced or completely stopped. The reduction or stoppage happens when one or more of the coronary arteries supplying blood to the heart muscle is blocked. If the blood and oxygen supply is cut off for more than a few minutes, heart muscle cells suffer permanent injury and die. This can kill or disable someone, depending on how much heart muscle is damaged.
Signs and Symptoms:
  • Discomfort or mild pain in the center of the chest. The pain can come and go and is often described as pressure, squeezing, indigestion or simply as pain
  • Pain can spread to one or both arms, neck, jaw, back or stomach
  • Shortness of breath, sweating, dizziness or nausea
  • Denial is a common response to chest pain
If you experience any of these symptoms or have risk factors for heart disease, do not ignore them. Women are known to have symptoms that are not "typical" for a heart attack, but this does not mean that women should ignore their symptoms.
Risk Factors:
  • Family history
  • Smoking
  • High cholesterol
  • High blood pressure
  • Physical inactivity
  • Overweight and obesity
  • Excessive alcohol intake
  • Diabetes
  • Stress
New treatments are available for heart attack and stroke victims. It is important that you do not delay seeking medical care when symptoms appear, since treatment must be given as soon as possible to be effective. Every second counts!